UK trade deficit outside EU doubles

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The Independent Online
BRITAIN'S trade gap with countries outside the European Union more than doubled last month after October's erratically low deficit, figures from the Central Statistical Office showed yesterday.

The shortfall between imports and exports of visible goods rose from pounds 372m in October to pounds 767m in November as a surge in exports proved short-lived. The CSO said the visible trade deficit appeared to be steady at around pounds 700m a month on a trend basis, although estimates of the trend have changed significantly from month to month.

But Michael Saunders, of Salomon Brothers, said he thought the visible trade gap was still narrowing as Britain enjoyed the benefits of improving trade volumes and rising export prices. 'Unless December's deficit with non-EU countries is exceptionally large, the total fourth-quarter deficit is likely to fall well short of the third quarter's pounds 2.4bn figure,' he said.

If trade in oil and erratic items - ships, aircraft, silver and precious stones - is excluded, the underlying deficit rose by pounds 148m on the month to pounds 634m, slightly lower than September's figure. Underlying export volume fell by 10 per cent following an increase of equal size in the previous month.

Export prices continued to rise, suggesting that exporters are using the benefit of greater competitiveness to raise prices more than to expand market share. Import prices were slightly lower in the last three months than in the previous three.

The trade deficit with non-EU European countries fell by about a sixth in November to pounds 254m, the lowest since the series began in 1990. The balances with oil-exporting countries, Japan, Australia and New Zealand improved, but fell for North America and elsewhere.